• Following declines in 2023 and continued challenges in 2024, global beverage alcohol is expected to begin its recovery in 2025, according to the latest report from IWSR.
Source: Getty Images
    Following declines in 2023 and continued challenges in 2024, global beverage alcohol is expected to begin its recovery in 2025, according to the latest report from IWSR. Source: Getty Images

Following declines in 2023 and continued challenges in 2024, global beverage alcohol is expected to begin its recovery in 2025, according to the latest report from IWSR.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, IWSR recorded a two per cent decline in the volume of spirits sold in the US market in 2023. Meanwhile, global total beverage alcohol (TBA) declined -1 per cent by volume and rose +2 per cent by value (US$, variable exchange rate) in 2023. Excluding national spirits such as baijiu and shochu, global volumes were down -1 per cent and value increased by +3 per cent.

While some more positive signs are starting to emerge in 2024, the global TBA market remains subdued after several years of above-trend growth, with challenges expected to continue until 2025 as household spending rebalances after strong inflationary pressures of the past 2 years. TBA volumes are expected to edge up by only +0.4 per cent this year.

When recovery comes, growth is expected to be relatively modest, with volume and value both rising at a CAGR of +1 per cent between 2023 and 2028 – with the main value growth coming from India, China and the US.

Together, India, China (including national spirits) and the US are expected to add US$30bn in incremental value (at 2023 prices) by 2028, as the TBA growth axis continues to shift towards developing economies. The next two most value-adding markets are Brazil and Mexico.

Beverage alcohol’s 2023 difficulties were driven by a rapid softening of demand as cost-of-living pressures mounted across major consumption markets, combined with a strong rebound in inventories weighing on key categories.

The major volume growth market in 2023 was India. All major beverage alcohol categories (except rum and wine) increased their volumes here, with both Scotch and US whiskies recording +7 per cent volume gains. Elsewhere, markets including Colombia, the Philippines and Thailand all posted volume and value increases.

The US spirits market (volumes down -2 per cent) declined for the first time in nearly 30 years in 2023, and every major TBA category saw volume declines, except for tequila, some US whiskey segments and RTDs. Looking forward, tequila is poised to add the most incremental value to the US spirits market by 2028, driven by premium-and-above expressions.

China experienced volume declines across a number of categories, amid concerns over slowing economic growth and rising unemployment among younger LDA consumers. International spirits grew by +2 per cent as the on-trade reopened, but volumes of both Cognac (-3 per cent) and malt Scotch (-11 per cent) suffered falls.

These market conditions reflect a more complex and uncertain macroeconomic landscape, with IWSR consumer research indicating that households remain under considerable financial pressure, and amid signs of increasing government regulatory pressures in key markets.

IWSR COO research and operations, Emily Nell, said that the ongoing shift in the TBA growth axis entails a greater exposure to business risk.

"Companies need to reorientate their global strategies to target new growth opportunities. Expansion across categories as well as geographic footprint will be increasingly important. In today’s global TBA marketplace, companies need to continue to innovate in order to succeed.”

Subdued growth for spirits

Spirits had a lacklustre 2023, with volumes flat versus 2022. Subdued growth is expected to return in the years ahead, with predicted 2023-28 CAGRs of +1 per cent (volume) and +2 per cent (value) excluding national spirits. Including national spirits (such as baijiu and shochu), volumes are expected to be flat, with value rising by +1 per cent CAGR.

The premiumisation universe for spirits is narrowing: while agave was the key driver of premium-and-above growth across a broad range of geographies in 2023, the gin boom has ended even more quickly than was anticipated, with marked declines from pandemic highs in key markets such as the UK (2022-23 volumes -14 per cent) and Spain (-11 per cent).

Beer holds steady, with growth opportunities

Despite a -1 per cent decline in global beer volumes in 2023, the category posted a +4 per cent value increase, and is expected to record +1 per cent CAGR growth for both volume and value between 2023 and 2028.

South Africa was a bright spot in 2023, with beer volumes rising by +9 per cent thanks to a combination of affordability in a difficult economy and brand owner investment. The market is expected to continue to grow at a volume CAGR of +3 per cent to 2028.

Brazil is another key driver for the future, adding the most incremental growth from a single market and expected to expand at a CAGR of +3 per cent to 2028 (both volume and value).

Wine’s decline brightened by rosé

The structural decline of the global wine market continued in 2023, with volumes down -4 per cent versus 2022. Volume declines are expected to persist to 2028 – at a CAGR of -1 per cent – with value growth flat.

The general gloom enveloping the category is lifted by the strong appeal of premium rosé in key markets such as the US, the UK and Australia. Rosé’s popularity is being fuelled by a number of factors, including its consistency and drinkability; a fun and upbeat image associated with social occasions such as bottomless brunches and outdoor summer entertaining; and a plethora of aspirational, recognisable and elegant brands.

RTDs continue to shine

In 2023, RTDs were the star of the global beverage alcohol market – the only major category to record volume growth (+2 per cent), alongside a strong +6 per cent uptick in value. This growth is expected to continue, with both volume and value forecast to grow at a CAGR of +3 per cent between 2023 and 2028.

As they expand, RTDs are becoming more sophisticated: cocktails and long drinks are continuing to take share as consumers explore more premium options, as well as seeking more affordable and convenient alternatives to traditional beverage alcohol categories.

Agave broadens its horizons

The US continues to dominate the global agave spirits market – posting growth of +4 per cent (volume) and +7 per cent (value) in 2023 – with solid growth in premium-plus price tiers. It will account for the vast majority of future value growth for the category, which is forecast to expand globally at a CAGR of +6 per cent between 2023 and 2028.

But agave spirits are continuing to gain ground outside their US and Mexican heartlands, rising +13 per cent by volume and +25 per cent by value in 2022-23. As well as taking shelf space from the declining gin category in markets such as the UK and Spain, agave is gaining share of spirits in other key destinations, including Canada and Australia.

Volumes in India nearly doubled during 2023 – and home-grown agave spirits are making a mark here. Agave is also the fastest-growing major spirits category in global travel retail, rising by +37 per cent (volume) and +58 per cent (value) in 2022-23.

No-alcohol buoyed as moderation goes mainstream

All no-alcohol categories recorded impressive gains in 2023: global no-alcohol beer volumes were up +6 per cent, still/sparkling wine grew by +7 per cent, and no-alcohol spirits continued their recent double-digit growth with a +15 per cent volume surge. In value terms, growth was higher still.

The latest Bevtrac consumer data from IWSR indicates that no-alcohol is the only market segment with positive momentum, driven by year-on-year increases in the no-alcohol drinker population in several key markets, including India, China, the UK, and the US.

As moderation enters the mainstream, it is being embraced by consumers for financial as well as health reasons, leading to long-term lifestyle changes. Regulatory pressures in a number of global markets reinforce these trends, as does the influence of guidance on alcohol consumption from governments and world agencies.

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